Thursday, August 5, 2010

Voting Behind Bars in the NYTimes

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times comments here on the imminent federal discussion of the racially disproportionate impact of felon disenfranchisement in the United States, and whether that impact creates a "result" (under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act - see bottom) of a race-based denial of voting rights.

From the Times...

It has been nearly three months since the court “invited” — that is to say, ordered — Solicitor General Elena Kagan to “express the views of the United States” on whether laws that take away the right to vote from people in prison or on parole can be challenged under the Voting Rights Act as racially discriminatory.

The order came in a case from Massachusetts, Simmons v. Galvin, an appeal by prison inmates challenging a 10-year-old state constitutional amendment that stripped them of the right to vote while incarcerated. They seek Supreme Court review of a ruling, issued a year ago by the federal appeals court in Boston, that Congress never intended the Voting Rights Act to apply in prison. The federal government was not involved in the case. Now the administration — presumably under the direction of whomever President Obama names to succeed Ms. Kagan as solicitor general — has to come up with a position.
FYI - Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act:
"No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting shall be imposed" that "results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."

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